What does Genesis 49:26 mean?Jacob is dying (Genesis 48:1). He has called his twelve sons to his bedside and delivered, in poetic verse, an oracle prophesying what will become of each of their future tribes (Genesis 49:1–2). Jacob's oracle about Joseph concludes in this verse. In some ways, this strongly resembles the official, formal family blessing handed down from Abraham, to Isaac, to Jacob, and now to Joseph.
God's blessings on Jacob are depicted in grand terms. Depending on the translation, his blessings have been greater than the blessings of his parents or greater than the blessings of his ancestors or perhaps greater than the blessings of "the ancient mountains" themselves. God had certainly blessed Jacob with more children than either of the two previous generations of his fathers. Jacob goes on, saying the blessings of his life have been greater even than the bounty or the riches to be found in the "everlasting hills." The hills of Canaan would have been rich with precious minerals, perhaps, as well as being blessed by God with vegetation in the summer.
With some of his last words, Jacob offers Joseph evidence of God's faithfulness and power: his own life story. Then Jacob declares these blessings will be on the head of Joseph. Jacob is placing the family blessing, which is the very blessing of God, on Joseph's head as a crown. Some translators see Jacob concluding by calling Joseph the "prince among his brothers" (NIV). Others read the Hebrew to describe Joseph as the one who was "set apart from his brothers" (ESV), referring to his years apart from the family in Egypt.
In either case, the possible use of "prince" did not mean that Joseph's descendants would become royalty over Israel themselves. That was the destiny of Judah's people (Genesis 49:10). Instead, it would have been abundantly clear to all gathered around Jacob that he was passing the official blessing to his beloved Joseph.